Key Roles (Volume 2)
Yuji Sakai - Kristian Ayre
Shana - Tabitha St. Germain
Alastor - Paul Dobson
Friagne - Trevor Devall
Marianne - Nicole Bouma
Lamies - Ron Halder
Margery Daw - Janyse Jaud
Marcosias - Trevor Devall
Keisaku Satou - Brad Swaile
Eita Tanaka - Alistair Abell
Kazumi Yoshida - Chantal Strand
I actually received this in the post several weeks ago, and have been meaning to write this review for a while, but I kept delaying the actual writing part. It again seems fitting then, that I write this review a week before a major UK anime event, this time Amecon. It is also good timing, since the US release of Shakugan no Shana was one of the Geneon titles that was recently revived from the limbo created when they vacated the playing field last year.
Regardless of Geneon's recent return to the marketplace, it was the UK version of Volume 2, which I received and am reviewing. The outside packaging is exactly what I've come to expect from an MVM release. The cover is lifted straight from the US release, with the obvious addition of the BBFC logo, in this case rating the DVD as suitable for people aged twelve and up. One complaint I have is that the four images on the back don't actually correspond directly to the episode titles written next to them.
There is not much content on the actual disc, with the only extras being the textless ending and a pair of trailers from MVM, neither of which I personally consider to be worthy of being called an extra. This brings me to another pair of complaints about the technical side of this release. The two trailers included on the DVD are for Love Hina and Witchblade, the latter being the only cause for the DVD being rated as a 12. Without that trailer, the BBFC would have rated this as a PG. The second complaint is regarding the textless ending, which is advertised as a textless opening on the DVD case. Thankfully this time the lyrics aren't hard subbed to the image.
The last episode left us with a bit of a cliff-hanger, with Shana being defeated in battle by Margery Daw, the Chanter of Elegies. We see her next lying battered and hurt outside Yuji's house as he leaves for school. She pushes him away, clearly in distress over her defeat, blaming Yuji for distracting her. Regardless of their little exchange, this episode focuses much less on Shana, and more on the introduction of four new characters.
First is Kazumi Yoshida, a small girl in Yuji's class with a big crush on him. She asks Yuji to go with her to the museum, and he accepts her invitation. Chantal Strand, an actress I'm most familiar with as Lacus and Meer from Gundam Seed, plays the timid but kind girl very well. I was able to hear both her timidness, as well as a hint of confusion and maybe jealousy when she sees Yuji with Shana later in the volume.
Next up, we are introduced to Lamies, the Corpse Collector. He is a crimson denizen who is unique in that he harbours no ill will towards those around him, and only preys on the dim torches that are all but burned out. He is voiced by Ron Halder, an actor who I haven't heard much from. The only roles that I know him from are Dr. Toros from Zoids Zero and Chronus from Stargate SG1. He is definitely an actor I would look forward to hearing more from, as he gave a performance that was calming whilst remaining somehow unnerving.
Finally we are introduced to the second flame haze, Margery Daw, and her Crimson Lord, Marcosias. Margery, voiced by Janyse Jaud, is shown to be a very forward woman with a hatred for denizens. She will stop at nothing to kill any she finds, even if it would disrupt the balance of the world. The tome that is always with her is her Crimson Lord Marcosias, the Claws and Fangs of Violation. Marco, as he is often called, appears initially to be a psychotic killer, who craves for nothing but blood, but there are moments of him showing a softer side, caring for Margery. Marco is voiced by Trevor Devall, pulling double duty this volume. He shows off his vocal range in an interesting way here, with both Marco and Friagne both not being the most sane of characters. Whilst Friagne remains calm in his insanity, Marco is loud and closer to how one would expect a madman to sound. If I didn't know he voiced them both, I wouldn't have expected that they were the same actor.
The second episode on the DVD finishes the storyline involving Friagne and his plan to absorb the city to empower his plan to give Marianne eternal life. In the process, Shana learns to trust Yuji, and with his help they manage to defeat Friagne and prevent his destruction of the city. At one point, Friagne uses most of Yuji's remaining essence to fire the trigger happy, a treasure that appears as a gun. The shot is stopped at the last second, and the day is saved. Yuji's torch is all but depleted, and just as it is about to be extinguished, the clock strikes midnight and again it returns to full power. Alastor confirms that the treasure inside Yuji is the Midnight Lost Child, the most powerful treasure in the entire crimson world.
The remaining two episodes focus on Lamies, the corpse collector, and Margery's quest to kill him. In a reversal of the events surrounding Friagne, the death of Lamies would destroy the city, with him holding the power from thousands of torches he has absorbed over hundreds of years within him. Regardless of this fact, Margery continues her pursuit of him, her hatred of denizens ruling her emotions. Initially she has a hard time tracking down the corpse collector, with him using clever tactics to avoid detection, whilst collecting power from the weak torches in the city.
Eventually they do find him, and a battle between Shana and Margery commences, with Shana protecting both Lamies and the balance between the two worlds. The fight itself is very well choreographed, with the small figure of Shana looking tiny when compared to the beastly form of Margery. Through the bond she has made with Yuji, Shana eventually wins through, and defeats the other flame haze, but the damage within the seal was very extensive, and not even using Yuji's flame will restore it to how it was before. Lamies offers up the power he had collected and restores everything to how it was previously, even though it means he will have to go and collect that power again.
The performances of the three main characters remain strong, with Kristian Ayre improving significantly on an already good performance in the first volume. The already fantastic Tabitha St. Germain didn't have much room to improve, but regardless gave another fantastic performance worthy of Rie Kugumiya, the popular Japanese Seiyuu of the fiery flame haze. Whilst the dub isn't the best I have ever heard, it is a very good one with a lot of talented names associated with it. In the past, Vancouver dubs were often the target of a lot of criticism, nowadays however this criticism would be completely out of place, with most dubs being amongst the top dubs of the month.
If you've yet to try Shakugan no Shana, unsure you'd like it, then I definitely recommend at least renting the first two volumes. I really enjoyed this volume, and on top of the already highly rated first volume, this is shaping up to be a very good series. Volumes one and two are now available in the UK from MVM Entertainment for £15.99 each, and a box set from Geneon Entertainment is due to hit American stores on September 9th, priced at $69.98.